11-10-2018 ~ 2 Comments

New wine mag on the block: Root & Vine

The current mantra for entrepreneurship in the United States is that of “success through failure”. It’s become a nearly religious belief among the web industry ilk as people have many, many failures until they have a success; usually burning through untold millions of other people’s money in the process. If only winemaking were so forgiving.

If you’re lucking enough to start up a winery, having year after year of skunk vintages isn’t going to see people suddenly heralding the fact that you finally made a good one. You’ll most likely be known as “That person with all the shitty wine and like… the one good one. Don’t buy those wines.” The fact that you need to have a track record proving that your head isn’t up your ass in wine is usually the only reason why people will take a risk on buying it, not the other way around.

Wine writing isn’t making wine, nor is it a tech startup and thus it fits somewhere in the middle of all this in that you don’t always need to hit it out of the park and there are some who have had lengthy careers of mediocrity. In theory, your best is always encouraged, but sometimes someone else bests your best. This is how 4/5 of us wine writers found ourselves one year ago when we were all shortlisted for “Emerging Writer” at the Louis Roederer Wine Writing awards in London. As Matt Walls, who was up in another category commented when I told him what I was up for, “Haven’t you um, already ’emerged’?” as it’s a weird set of guidelines for this category and I actually wasn’t the oldest guy in the group. In the end, Morgan Dunn from Australia (who may have been the youngest, rightly) won the category and with it, a magnum of 2007 Cristal.

And with that, the awards were over. Outside it was a soggy September evening, oh so typical of London and the lot of our category, losers and winner, didn’t feel like trundling off to bed after imbibing a great quantity of Louis Roederer Rosé NV that had made for a pleasing buzz. We gathered ourselves, freshened up from the stuffy hall of the awards and went out for pizza at a natural wine bar in East London called P Franco.

During what ended up be an insanely long taxi ride, Simon Reilly brought up his general frustrations in wine writing, namely: few venues to write in, long lag time in going to press, and of course, the very small (and growing smaller) payments for said writing. We were all very much in agreement which led Simon to enthusiastically exclaim, “Let’s do a magazine ourselves! The five of us! We can put it together and have a great little publication of what we want to write about.”

It was a nice-sounding idea, but my being the ever-cautious one with experience in publishing knew that getting together content and layout wouldn’t be a problem, nor would printing it. The issue would be in distribution. That is the killjoy in this day and age of interconnectedness. Physically moving a set of bundled pages is just a horrible, convoluted, expensive process that gets more costly every year.

In typical fashion–and why I’m not often invited to parties–that seemed to throw a wet blanket on the idea as it’s a big hurdle. I however have the nagging suspicion that Simon had been thinking about this for some time prior to the evening in question as it definitely didn’t deter him and it seems he went to deal with the whole distribution issue by teaming up with an established magazine publisher, Root & Bone which has largely been focused on food.

Fast forward to the searing heat of summer and this past August when I received an email out of the blue from Simon saying, “Okay, will need an article about something in Priorat, just get it to me by the end of the month.” In the end, he worked with our group of winner, qualified losers, and a number of other people I enjoy reading a great deal as well to assemble the first issue of “Root & Vine”, seen above in proof format.

Almighty winner, Morgan Dunn (who ended up sharing his magnum of vintage Cristal with us over pizza) is in there as well as Sophie Thorpe who writes articles for bbr.com and of course Simon has a piece too. And then the likes of Henry Jeffreys who I enjoy reading a great deal and has an incredible amount of patience with Americans (probably due to marrying one of our lot) has a great bit on En Rama Sherry, as well Joss Fowler who has a biting take down piece on wine scoring that I loved. There are a few others as well which make it an issue worth the price of admission at £5. Simon has put together a very engaging first issue with some of the best younger voices in wine writing and I’m not just saying that because I was included. Because, I was, and it gave me a great opportunity to recount making my first wine in 2014 with an amphora that was an exercise in stupidity which I hope is enjoyable to laugh at via the article.

There’s not much more to say, just buy a copy online (click on a magazine cover and then choose Root & Vine in the left hand panel popup–they’re working to make this easier) or buy it locally in the UK as they has many outletz.

At the moment, it’s a one off but the idea is to have it become more regular once it’s seen how this new wine magazine hits the street, so go out and support it!